Who Qualifies for a Public Defender?

The determination of whether one qualifies for representation by a Public Defender is made by the Court where your case is being heard. You will have to disclose your income and your assets. A public defender will be appointed if it is determined that you do not have the ability to retain your own lawyer. Eligibility is assumed for contempt, juvenile, and revocation cases. The public defender may decline services if you appear to have the ability to retain your own lawyer.

The seriousness of the charges, and the availability of cash resources to hire a lawyer, will determine whether a defendant qualifies for a public defender. An individual charged with murder may be eligible for a public defender because of the high cost of hiring a private attorney. The same individual may not be eligible for a public defender if charged with writing a bad check. Each case is evaluated individually.

If the public defender office is appointed to represent you, there will be no charge to you for their services. Furthermore, there will be no filing fees charged for any legal papers filed in your case.

Most criminal cases begin with a preliminary hearing at the District Judge level. You should contact the District Judge office where your preliminary hearing is to be held, inform them that you are requesting a public defender. They will then make the determination as to whether you qualify. Our attorneys serve the Magisterial District Judges of the Ninth Judicial District.